BIRD.org.uk: Helping young people shine their brilliance and grow their resilience.

 

chrome ball sculpture covered in yarn bombed flowers and nets.

Yarn-bombed sculpture at Newcastle, County Down. Photo my own.

Creative Mental Health

As you all know I am passionate about the power of creativity, especially music, to boost mental health and grow self esteem. So I’m doubly delighted today because, via Twitter, BIRD has appeared on my horizon.

The organisation BIRD is the brainchild of Founding Director Neil Phillimore who has brought together a unique group of creative activists who nurture young people struggling with various life issues and stresses. BIRD’s mentors take them through a process of self expression using various media, especially music, song, drama and creative writing.

The power of arts and social support for mental health is well documented, as I have found in my own research and gleaned from many others’ studies. BIRD’s work is active proof that boosts what seems to me to be an emerging sense of self-affirmation, recovery and growth for otherwise vulnerable and at risk youth. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is empowerment though I feel there’s a lot more to it- as they say so much better themselves with their name BIRD, Brilliance, Integrity, Relationship and Delight.

With schools forced to cut arts budgets and society offering little in the way of free community provision for young people to find support and encouragement, this fantastic project deserves recognition for their service to the 16-25 age group, so many of whom are overwhelmed and underserved.

A Beacon of Inspiration

I believe also that BIRD is a beacon of light in terms of what can be done in creative mental health support. They need support for their current crowdfunding appeal so they can upgrade their resources and continue their work. This project could also be a workable model for further and more widespread initiatives and is certainly one I am keeping my eye on for future inspiration.

Good luck to all you folks at BIRD and keep up the great work 🙂

Bedford Happy!

From her wonderful site here on WordPress, Marie-Louise Plum gives a great uplifting account of an arts for mental health project coming up in Bedford. Let’s hope this is the start of a new paradigm for mental health promotion and recovery. Look out too for my book with Palgrave Macmillan in April 2014, “Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health: Service Users’ Perspectives”, describing many more examples of the power of creative activity and social support in mental health and well-being. For now, join me in following up Marie-Louise’s fantastic leads here for more exciting work in this arena. Thanks Marie-Louise and All the best for now, Roberta 🙂

MENTAL SPAGHETTI

A mental health related arts project! In Bedford! Where I’m from! Ticking all the boxes here, press release below, read on folks…

Is Bedford the unhappiest place in Great Britain? The national press may think so, but Bedford Creative Arts think differently.

Bedford Happy is a project commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts. Kent artist Dan Thompson will be looking at the town, and working with local groups to find out where people are happiest – and what it is that gives them a happy buzz. A day-long artwork event will be produced celebrating Bedford’s happiness on Saturday 29th March. There will be a trail of interventions to make people a little bit happier, some special markers of happy memories and a celebration of the shops and cafes that are making people happy. “Bedford is an interesting place, full of quirky stories and interesting places, Bedford Happy is a great opportunity…

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My Hemingway Gift

photo of Hemingway handwriting at his desk.

Ernest Hemingway at work.

[Image source ragan.com and wiki commons ]

I was born on June 9th, 1961. Three days prior to my birth, Dr Carl Jung passed away. A few weeks after it, Ernest Hemingway, debilitated and depressed, ended his own life. But let’s celebrate that life. For it was a full life, packed with creativity and zest. And what a marvellous legacy humanity has inherited from this all-too-human genius. As Janine Russell‘s lovely blog demonstrates, and as Hemingway said,  ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed’. Writing is a passion. It is also terribly hard work. Relentless work, in that once you are into a project it never leaves your mind. You struggle with it, day and night.

Hemingway said he was never happier than when he was writing, when he was ‘in the book’ and ‘making it up’. I read this just now in a great book gifted to me by my husband Fintan on our recent wedding anniversary. Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson delves into the writer’s life and work from the time he acquired Pilar at the height of his fame in 1934, until his tragic death in 1961. We meet a driven man, often compassionate and caring with a fierce sense of social justice. But also sometimes prejudiced, insensitive, aggressive and intolerable. Hemingway produced wonderful work. His work is not only inspiring at a very human level, it is also highly instructive for anyone keen to develop their literary craft. There is no doubt in my mind that Hemingway also regretted the heartaches he is reported to have caused in the context of some of the relationships in his life but he gave so much too, these must be forgiven. We must recognise that our failings are rarely executed in a deliberate fashion – like us all, Hemingway may at times have failed to understand his own impulses or the impact of his behaviour until after the events. Perhaps then, regrets played a part in his eventual emotional decline. He had much to be proud of too.

What shines through for me in Hemingway’s work  and in this recent analysis through the lens of his life on the high seas, is

  • a love of life,
  • a capacity to live ‘in the Now’,
  • a dedication to truth and authenticity and
  • a deep sense of  empathy with the existential angst of all humans everywhere.

And how do we live with our own mortality and with the impact of war and cruelty?

Love and meaning, that is Hemingway’s answer and that is his creative well.

A Farewell to Arms is one of my favourites, written in 1929, but I think For Whom the Bell Tolls is his absolute masterpiece. For now, I’m enjoying Paul Hendrickson‘s book, highly recommended.

Catching Vibes

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DruhJkZU4EI

 

sorry, having glitches with you tube! Trailer to be embedded asap, click the links for now 🙂

Had to re-post this as I’m going to see it today for the second time – saw it at last year’s premiere. A real humdinger as all the reviews have said!

Subliminal Spaces

Image

Belfast Punk History and the Terri Hooley Film Good Vibrations

A few years ago, engrossed in a re-discovery of the power inherent in the music of my youth, I wrote a piece for MRZine expounding the merits of Julien Temple’s movie about Joe Strummer, viewable at  http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2007/mcdonnell280907.html  

The Future is Unwritten expressed how much of a channel for liberation music can be, especially the raw, gut-filled rhythms of punk rock, and how motivational and uplifting a medium it is for many. While on the one hand, this music was and is just about the joy of being, on the other hand there is always a politicised dimension. And I mean politicised in an archetypal, humanitarian sense of the word, not the dogmatic, ideological constructions we tend to think of as politics.

Punk music is about a lot of things: freedom to express the experience of life in all its peaks and…

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